Building a World Class Sporting Event from the Ground Up

Posted on April 17, 2018 in News

Two and a half years ago, Richmond hosted one of the most prominent cycling events in the world. The UCI Road World Championships crowns world champions for men, women and juniors in several disciplines of road cycling. And while many considered Richmond an unlikely host of such a large and prestigious event, several of us knew that the region had the capability to do so.

“Why Richmond”, many would ask? After all, this old, conservative southern city, previously known as the Capital of the Confederacy and home to Philip Morris, the world’s largest cigarette manufacturer, hadn’t exactly established itself as a host to major international sporting events. Richmond is home to the Flying Squirrels, one of the most successful minor league baseball teams, Richmond Raceway and its two NASCAR Cup races each year, and the Richmond Kickers of the USL. The region had also hosted the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championships, a first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, and the ITU Duathlon World Championships, not to mention the annual Monument Avenue 10K, one of the largest and most successful 10K running races in the U.S., thanks to the hard work of the Richmond Sports Backers. But an international event of this scope and scale was going to be a first for the region.

It was on December 10, 2010 that we officially announced plans to bid on the Worlds. That meant we had a little more than eight months to prepare an official bid. But it wasn’t just words on paper. There was real work to do. First, we had to build an organization, including seating a Board of Directors and placing key staff, before submitting the bid and, ultimately, becoming the organizing committee. Then, a comprehensive budget had to be created, courses had to be designed, TV agreements had to be worked out, strategies for sponsorship, marketing and community engagement would need to be defined, and plans for event staffing and public safety would have to be figured out. And perhaps the most important thing was the commissioning of an economic impact report, projecting the ROI that the community would get as a result of the event.

But at the end of the day, this was a sale. And like any sale, positioning a bid proposal comes down to the value proposition. What was unique, however, was that there were multiple decision-makers on multiple sides. First, we had to convince Richmond! And by Richmond, I mean political leaders, business leaders, community leaders, and the residents too! That means A LOT of leg work, with no guarantee of how it would turn out! Then we had to convince the UCI, the event’s owner, and the international governing body for cycling, that Richmond, and the assembled leadership team, could pull this off.

The good news is, the more we worked on the bid and built the case for Richmond, the more compelling the story became, and the more people began to believe. We continued to forge ahead through countless meetings, presentations and site visits, while leveraging the media to help tell the story, and the momentum continued to build. It kept coming back to “Why Richmond”, and that is the question that we strove to answer as we developed our bid. And as the answers to that question came to light, the logic behind, and motivation for, hosting the event started to become obvious.

Our pitch was simple. First, there was a group of experienced professionals leading this effort, supported by significant political, community and corporate backing. Second, there was a strong cycling community and history of international cycling in the area that had proven highly successful in the past. Third, was the presence of challenging terrain in an urban, populated area that would make for a competitive race course and support the influx of international visitors. And finally, there was the proximity to transportation infrastructure and the east coast location, which was beneficial to the timing of the global television broadcast.

On September 21, 2011 in Copenhagen, Denmark we were officially awarded the event. That night we celebrated our victory. But by the next morning we felt a little bit like the cat that caught the canary! Suddenly we had four years to put our plans in motion and produce a highly complex event. Oh, and raise a bunch of money to do it! But from the beginning, we knew the region would step up, and they didn’t disappoint. It became a community-wide effort, led by Richmond 2015, the organizing committee, but supported by community leaders and community organizations throughout the area.

As I prepare to attend my first National Association of Sports Commissions Symposium, and meet leaders from sports commissions all over the country, I couldn’t help but reflect on the 14-month process that we went through to bid on this event. It was an education and experience beyond any classroom, and one that required a level of determination, confidence, and a willingness to step fearlessly into the unknown!

Tim Miller, Director of Business Development, InProduction